December 20, 2011

What's in your wallet?

     I have to admit I love those viking commercials.  However this isn't a blog about credit cards.  Rather those other cards we all carry around, store cards. You know the ones that give you store perks or discounts or help save for your children's college education.  How many of those do you have?
      According to KeyRingThing the average family has 12 loyalty cards on their key ring alone.  Quick FYI: A heavy key chain can damage your ignition switch according The Mustang Source as well as dozens of other resources and yes all those cards do count.  I personally think this number is incredibly low and here's my proof:

What you see above are all of my loyalty cards.  I have a separate wallet just for them and they're alphabetized.  Yes that's a Vera Bradley wallet that Treasure loving chewed the zipper off of ~ thank goodness it was a hand-me-down.  I HATE loyalty cards but there is no way I am going to turn down possible savings in the future now am I or should I?
     According to C.A.S.P.I.A.N. (Consumers Against Supermarket Invasion and Numbering) the discounts do not necessarily outweigh the benefits. Supermarkets that offer discounts to card holders only are raising the prices on goods throughout the store. Most of these loyalty programs cost the stores millions of dollars in annual operating costs, and you know who actually pays they costs don't you. In addition to the extra costs that the consumers bears for these programs there is also the privacy issue.  How many times are you asked at a check out to fill out this form so you can receive a free card?  Have you read all of the terms and conditions~ really have you?  They always want a  snail mail addy as well as an email plus your phone number.  And can we have your b'day info as well so we can send you a special coupon to celebrate?  Even when they promise to not share any of your information outside of their company what does that really mean?  T.J. Maxx's parent company is T.J.X. which also owns as Marshalls, HomeGoods and four other store chains in the US, Canada and Europe.  So is your information being shared globally? 
     Infosec Island, an IT security website, suggests that we regularly go through those cards we've been carrying around. In their article Loyalty Cards vs Privacy Concerns they also encourage destroying not simply throwing away cards you no longer use as well as finding out which have gone mobile.
     Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they feel each card is worth.  I have a separate email that I use for "commercial" needs.  On the upside....
     While shopping at Big Lots I handed the cashier my rewards card and was pleased to discover that I had earned enough points and was receiving 20% off my ENTIRE purchase~ woo hoo.  Unlike other stores that require you to register your points or use them by a certain date Big Lots tracks it all and let's you know when you've earned them.  Another favorite rewards card is my Hallmark Gold Member card.  Hallmark is another store that tracks your purchases and every quarter sends you a reward check.  Panera's works like Big Lots and at least once a month I'm earning a drink or bakery item for free.
     So shopping this weekend was actually a pleasure~ I received 20% off at Big Lots, used coupons and reward checks at Hallmark that paid for 2 of our annual Christmas Ornaments and had lunch for free at Panera's.  WOOHOO  loving reward cards this holiday season
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